Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thank goodness Julia Child isn't here...

She'd be heartbroken and/or outraged. As the transfat police gather momentum, egged on by soybean farmers, we're about to do injury to our dairy farmers, and even more sadly - our taste buds.

But, in a twist of science, the law and what some call trans-fat hysteria, Mr. Reich and other wholesale bakers are being forced to substitute processed fats like palm oil and margarine for good old-fashioned butter because of the small amounts of natural trans fat butter contains.

Some researchers believe that the trans fat that occurs naturally in butter, meat, milk and cheese might actually be healthy. But to satisfy companies that want to call their foods completely free of trans fats, bakers like Mr. Reich are altering serving sizes, cutting back on butter and in some cases using ingredients like trans fat-free margarine. [More]

Transfats sound like something distilled in lab from industrial waste. I blame the name. Plus normally responsible information sources have done a poor or even slanted job of explaining that transfats are naturally occurring and present in familiar healthful foods.

It's also important to remember how we got here - by following the advice of people who now are hysterical about transfats:
In the mid-1980s, Jacobson launched a campaign against saturated fats—then CSPI's "panic du jour." In turn, CSPI demanded that restaurants stop using beef tallow to cook French fries and other foods. By the early 1990s, most restaurants had acquiesced to Jacobson's demands.

At the time, partially hydrogenated oils were the only viable alternative to beef tallow and other oils high in saturated fat. Jacobson and CSPI, driven by their myopic dislike of saturated fats, dismissed a number of studies connecting partially hydrogenated oil—and the trans fats it contains—with increasing levels of cholesterol.

In 1988, Elaine Blume wrote in the Center's Nutrition Action Healthletter: "[H]ydrogenated oils aren't guilty as charged... All told, the charges against trans fat just don't stand up. And by extension, hydrogenated oils seem relatively innocent." Two years later, CSPI nutrition director Bonnie Liebman put it more succinctly: "The Bottom Line... Trans, shmans."

So, after years of pressuring restaurants to stop using beef tallow and other oils, and at the same time exonerating partially hydrogenated oils, CSPI bears much of the responsibility for restaurants using oils high in trans fats. [More]

Just a few of us can remember what McDonald's fries used to taste like. Look, transfats can be managed, but taking butter out of croissants is not the right way. I suggest eating just one and walking to the bakery to get it.

And the worse thing producers could do is encourage food-fundamentalists to push ingredient bans through legislative bodies. There is something about this business that triggers bad consequences when choice and market action is overridden by edict. I think the ethanol mandate has become the business model for commodity producers.

Besides since when did following New York City fashion turn out to be winning strategy for the Midwest?

1 comment:

rhoads said...

Look on the bright side John. Your kids will be able to visit you in the nursing home when they are one hundred years old.